Day 203: Making peace is a marathon

May El- Khalil founded a marathon in her home country of Lebanon after an accident which ended her own running career. That isn’t the only contradiction in this inspirational talk. When the starting gun sounds, it may be one of the few moments each year when a gunshot isn’t part of routine violence.
Organising a marathon in Lebanon is different to arranging one in New York. El-Khalil describes how she spent two years travelling all over the country. She met with people from all walks of life; all of whom spoke a common language and wanted to show the world the Lebanese people’s desire to live in harmony. In October 2003, over 6000 runners from 49 different nationalities started the first ever marathon in Lebanon. As the political problems of the country grew, El-Khalil and her team used the marathon to bring people together. In 2005, when the prime minister was assassinated, 60,000 people ran in a 5 kilometre, ‘United We Run’ race.
Through the marathon they learned that political problems could be overcome. When part of the city centre was shut down, they negotiated alternative routes. The November 2012 marathon contained over 33,000 runners from 85 different nationalities. BMA supported charities and volunteers who helped reshape Lebanon, creating a contagious culture of giving. Government officials in the region, such as Iraq, Egypt and Syria, have all asked the organisation for help with structuring a similar event. El-Khalil has seen first hand how people want to run for a better future. After all, peacemaking is a marathon.


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